I recently watched the new movie ‘Joker’ and it got me thinking. Warning if you’re planning to watch the movie there may be some spoilers below.
What does anxiety look like?
In the movie Joaquin Phoenix does an amazing job to challenge viewer to look at anxiety in a very confronting way. The following that he displayed are things that I’ve experienced or witnessed:
- leg shaking, but really any body part can be used in an attempt to vent the pent-up emotions. Think of it as being like a kettle needing to let out the steam or explode.
- uncontrolled laughter. In the movie I could hear the pain behind Arthur’s laughter, I saw him struggle to control it as he covered his mouth; coughed; and clutched at his throat unable to breathe. This is probably the most embarrassing and misunderstood aspect of anxiety. I vividly remember the looks of disgust the few times it happened to me as I laughed at the most inappropriate moments of a conversation.
- loneliness, anxiety leaves you scared to go out or to have people visit and so life can become so lonely and isolated. Arthur tries to relieve the lonely hours by watching tv. Desperately longing for connection and recognition he even creates fake scenarios and relationships.
- lack of appetite, in the movie Arthur appears to be underweight and he cooks for his mum but doesn’t seem to eat any himself. I’ve experienced the other extreme and been an emotional eater (overeaten or comfort eaten) in the past.
- catatonic, the inability to move or respond because the situation has become overwhelming. Confronting for those witnessing, terrifying for those experiencing it as you’re left utterly vulnerable.
These are just a few ways that anxiety can look and it looks vastly different for each person.
I watched the dramatic results of a broken mental health system outworked during the movie. Arthur expressed that he felt unheard by his counsellor/social worker but to then be left with no support, due to lack of funding, spiralled him out of control.
I sensed that the Joker persona grew out of that but also Arthur’s desperate desire for connection and recognition. He seemed to try so hard to fit in, to work and care for his mum, but he was misunderstood and mistreated.
When he commits his first crime he is hailed as a hero and his violent action started an uprising. Finally, he sees that he is heard and seen and relishes in the attention like a thirsty man gulping down water. I cringed and felt like crying, my heart cried out: “oh if only he had been helped, if only he had been truly loved, if only he’d been acknowledged, if only ….”
The most disturbing parts of the movie for me were the graphic killings. I’ve never been a blood and gore girl and nowadays it can take weeks for the images to leave my mind. I’m also often plagued by nightmares after watching something violent.
I felt that the movie was tying to justify the violent actions that Joker took because he hurt the people who had hurt or betrayed him, but I find the concept of taking another person’s life confronting. I remember during my psych interview (during my Army Reserves recruiting interview) I stated that even though I am a Christian I believe that if I killed someone while defending myself or another person I’d be justified in my actions. The Bible states that there is “A time to kill” Ecclesiastes 3:3a (NKJV) and the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentry explains that this relates judicially – towards criminals; or in wars – self-defence; not in malice as this is then murder. But I’m not so confident about my answer given at the psych interview anymore, it hurts my heart to think of anyone dying before their time especially because Jesus came that NONE should perish (2 Peter 3:9), if people die before they get the chance to hear the Good News … well it’s just awful to think about.
I just pray that I’m never confronted with the awful choice. And I pray that society can see the value that each person’s life has, I truly believe in a God of redemption and that means that even the worst life can be turned around, all for God’s glory.
Understand that I’m not an expert on mental health, this has simply been my observations. Anxiety looks vastly different for many people, if you’re struggling PLEASE reach out to someone, and discuss your struggles with your GP. There are many people trained to help you, here are a couple:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 plus they have online forums, an online chat and an email contact. For more details check out their webpage.
Please know that Jesus can set you free because He came to make us whole. I know this because I walk in greater freedom each and every day, I see anxiety losing its grip upon me and I praise God for the work He’s doing.
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:15-16 (NKJV)
Many blessings, Keona